Construction has not yet begun on the ocean outfall in Rehoboth Beach, but changes are already afoot with the $52.5 million project.
The city will not build a proposed $12.5 million biosolids facility as originally planned. Instead, biosolids will be trucked to a new facility being built at the county’s Inland Bays treatment plant. The city and county will also partner on reliability upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, originally proposed as Phase 2 of the overall $10 million in upgrades to the 30-year-old plant.
At a July 26 meeting that included the city commissioners and officials from Sussex County and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the city’s engineers, GHD, unveiled revisions to the city and county’s existing agreement, which allows the city to treat wastewater from neighboring Dewey Beach, Henlopen Acres and North Shores. The county has a 42 percent stake in Rehoboth’s outfall project.
The changes to the outfall project were proposed when bids for installing the outfall into the ocean and an accompanying diffuser came in higher than expected. That aspect of the work requires a barge that serves as a base of operations to drill the outfall pipe into the ocean floor.
The apparent low bidder for the ocean work is Manson Construction of Seattle with a bid of $27 million. Other bids were from Weeks Marine Construction at $32 million and American Bridge at $43 million. Engineer Jeff Sturdevant said GHD had estimated the bid at $23 million, while Mayor Sam Cooper said he was expecting a bid of about $19 million.
Sturdevant said the ocean work has to be done over the winter, when weather conditions are likely to make the work more risky, driving up costs. Cooper has said that the city is paying a huge premium for doing the work in the winter time, when weather will be worse, but environmental regulations mandate that portion of the work must start no earlier than Oct. 15 and end by March 15.
Sturdevant said the project will be on a tight timeline; contractors for the entire project are required to mobilize by Oct. 1 and be finished by April 30. GHD’s project manager for the plant work, Kelvin George, said the timetable for the other work allows for some wiggle room to meet a consent order saying the city must stop dumping its treated effluent in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal by June 1.
All told, bids on the four main outfall-related projects are $43 million. The city has a $52.5 million loan from the state to do all the work. While the city has the funds for the four projects that have already been bid, the $9.5 million left over would not be enough to cover the remaining plant upgrades or the city’s plan to build a new biosolids facility.
To cover that, the city and county agreement specifies that the county will take the city’s biosolids and treat them at a new biosolids facility at the county’s Inland Bays plant. Under the agreement, the city would pay an annual service fee, to be determined by the county after the facility opens, but will not have to pay any operating costs. The city’s biosolids would be transported to the Inland Bays plant via truck to be treated.
City and county officials also agreed to share costs of the remaining planned upgrades. County Engineer Hans Medlarz said the county would have an interest in sharing the cost of new oxidation ditches at the Rehoboth treatment plant. George said the oxidation ditches are the heart of wastewater treatment because that is where bacteria, nitrogen and organics in wastewater are broken down.
The $52.5 million loan for the outfall project covers installing the outfall pipe and diffuser in the ocean; installing the force main pipe that will take treated effluent to the ocean; building a new pump station at the city’s wastewater treatment plant; and Phase 1 of upgrades to the plant, which include new clarifiers and screening equipment. The city has fast-tracked the plant upgrades after the clarifiers and screens failed in July 2016, causing brown sludge to be emptied into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
On the first phase, for the clarifiers and screening equipment, the low bidder was Allan Myers Construction of Worcester, Pa., with a $2.2 million bid. Allan Myers also was the low bidder for the pump station with a $1.7 million bid. The low bidder on the force main was A-Del Construction of Newark with a $5.7 million bid, which includes repaving the roads that will be disrupted by construction.
Regarding the low bidder for the ocean work, Commissioner Kathy McGuiness asked Sturdevant if GHD had done due diligence on Manson’s reputation.
Without detailing specifics, McGuiness was referring to a 2014 case before the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s review board of allegations that Manson was operating an unsafe worksite at the Vashon Island Ferry Terminal in Seattle. The OSHA board found Manson committed three serious violations in connection with the project and issued fines between $3,500 and $6,000.
According to a 2004 press release from the Environmental Protection Agency, Manson was also involved in a case in which it settled with the EPA for a $100,000 fine for ocean dumping during a 1998 dredging project at Richmond Harbour near San Francisco. The EPA’s release said barges Manson used to transport dredged material to an EPA-approved site leaked sediment into a federally protected marine sanctuary.
Sturdevant said Manson is one of the top-rated firms in the country for the kind of work that will be done. He said GHD will make sure Manson is a viable bidder; every contractor, he said, will have pluses and minuses from past projects.
In order for the agreement to take effect before awarding four contracts for work related to the outfall, both sides plan to ratify the agreement prior to Friday, Aug. 18, when the Rehoboth commissioners plan to vote on the contracts. Cooper said the city would schedule a special meeting prior to the commissioners’ Monday, Aug. 7 workshop to sign the agreement.